This season is going to be a really exciting one, with LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George hitting free agency among others. There are still a lot of teams who traded for players with expiring contracts, and there are a lot of moves to be made.
Some teams have crowded front-courts and are looking to off-load some talents or some big contracts, while others are lacking depth and will be looking to trade for it. One thing is certain, this is going to be a very busy season regarding trades, and here are the hottest rumors so far:
5. Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel left a crowded Philadelphia 76ers front-court last season, as the Sixers preferred to keep Jahlil Okafor behind Joel Embiid. He did make quite an impact in 22 matches for the Dallas Mavericks after the All-Star break last season, posting averages of 8.5 points per match, 6.8 rebounds, 1.0 steal and 1.1 blocks, and everyone thought that he would be the starting Center for the Mavericks this season.
However, the reality is far worse for Noel, who actually has seen very few minutes of playing time so far in the season. After playing between 11-27 minutes for the first 11 matches of the season, the 23-year old Center has only played a total of 25 minutes of game-time in the last 6 matches, as coach Carlisle prefers to play Nowitzki at the Center, or even Salah Mejri. It is unclear why Noel is being kept in the dog-house lately, possibly for a lack of effort, but a trade would seriously rejuvenate his value in the NBA.
Noel is making $4.2 million this season and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. He settled for the qualifying offer after Mavs owner Mark Cuban pulled the $70 million deal off the table, a reaction for Noel's request for a maximum deal. A trade might be beneficial for both parties here, as the Mavericks might lose him for nothing in the summer, while Noel will get his career back on track.
4. Julius Randle/Brook Lopez
The Los Angeles Lakers have made quite a few really questionable transfers the past couple of years, starting with giving massive salaries to both Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. Luckily for them they managed to off-load Mozgov but had to give up D'Angelo Russel, while Deng's contract is still a problem. The Lakers also traded for Brook Lopez in that deal, but he is on the last year of his contract, and the Lakers might look to not lose him to nothing.
With LeBron James, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins all hitting free-agency this summer, the Lakers are vying to have room for at least two max contracts. In order to do so, they will need to off-load Deng's problematic contract, Brook Lopez and quite possibly Julius Randle. Randle will only be a restricted free agent if the Lakers make him a qualifying offer of $5.6 million—but in doing so, he'll take up $12.4 million of their precious cap space. There should certainly be a market for a versatile big man like Julius Randle, and rumor has it that the Lakers are asking for a first-round pick for him.
3. DeAndre Jordan
After almost signing for the Dallas Mavericks in the 2015-16 off-season, DeAndre Jordan eventually left them high and dry and re-signed with the Clippers. However, he is earning $22.6 million this season and can opt out of the $24.1 million he is owed for 2018-19. That means that the Clippers might lose him for nothing in the summer, so they are starting to listen to offers from the other teams in the NBA.
One of the teams that have shown interest in the big man are the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are reportedly ready to offer Tristan Thompson and Brooklyn's first-round pick. However, there are a lot of other teams interested to trade for DeAndre Jordan, looking to add his elite-rebounding and overall presence in the paint. With a re-build being more than possible after the injuries to Griffin and Beverly, DeAndre Jordan will most likely not be with the Clippers when the next season starts.
2. DeMarcus Cousins
When the Pelicans traded for DeMarcus Cousins last season, they knew that they were buying an expiring contract. However, they made a huge bet that he will bond well with Anthony Davis and the rest of the team, and he did. The Pelicans also brought in veteran play-maker Rajon Rondo, and with Jrue Holiday also in the squad, they have a nice core of players.
However, they lack other trade-able pieces, and that makes their hopes for adding depth to their bench seem bleak. Even so, there is no guarantee that DeMarcus Cousins will re-sign when his contract ends this summer, so they might move him instead. The Celtics are one possible destination, who have a myriad of draft picks, a lot of talented pieces, and an $8.4 million exception from Hayward's injury. Moreover, college teammate John Wall would love to have him in Washington.
But, if the Pelicans achieve a long run in the NBA Playoffs, maybe DeMarcus Cousins will stay alongside Anthony Davis.
1. LeBron James
King James is on a new quest this season, the first season of the post-Kyrie era. The Cavaliers did get Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder in the Kyrie trade, but Thomas has yet to play a match due to a hip injury, and Crowder is buried in a roster full of stars. Moreover, the Cavaliers brought in Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose to add to their already strong roster, but Rose is currently considering retirement, and Wade is actually having flashes of the Flash.
Word around the league goes that LeBron will "most likely" not re-sign with the Cavaliers, so trading him before the deadline could also be a possibility for the Cavaliers. There are rumors that the most likely landing spot would be the Lakers, but I am pretty sure that most teams will make a bid for King James. The Sixers have also been linked with LeBron, as they have both the assets, and the draft picks to make a trade happen.